Kevin Odegard: I was a twenty four year-old brakeman on the C&NW when Blood On The Tracks was recorded. Although David Zimmerman had been my manager, my 1971 first album on Wooff Records failed in the marketplace and I was driving Red & White Taxis and playing occasional gigs and recording (Mill City Records Quadraphonic “Can’t Turn Back/Sunshine Silver Mine) with friends whose work I admired. Gregg Inhofer had been at my side early on, so when I got a call from David Zimmerman just after Christmas, 1974, I recommended Gregg immediately. My other suggestions, Stan Kipper and Doug Nelson, were in vain. The rhythm section had already been chosen. Bill Berg and Billy Peterson were Sound 80 favorites and David’s excellent choice.
Zimmerman chose me out of his friendship with my mother, a special person in both of our lives. I was nothing special on guitar, though I possessed a strong rhythmic command of an instrument I can only compare to a Stradivarius. Purchased following a summer stock run in Medora, North Dakota from Manny’s Music in New York, where Dylan himself had shopped, I now had an instrument in my hands pushing me forward with the Travis-picking method used by Steven DeLapp and Dr Chuck Anderson that summer in Medora.
These guys weren’t fooling around, noodling with forgettable hits of the day. Their repertoire dug deep into the Appalachian and Delta folk blues championed by Doc Watson and Mississippi John Hurt. I listened, spellbound all that summer of ‘69, rapt in my observational learning style. Stuck with a cheap Epiphone 12-string concert model, I simply put it down and watched where the boys’ fingers were going from string to string; what they were doing, when and how (metal fingerpicks!).
This is how I still learn today. My takeaway was an attitude, a refined point of view as to where imaginative accompaniment springs from. It comes naturally second nature, and only after practicing until my fingertips were bloody from the rapture of that Martin D-28 sound. There is nothing else like it in nature or craft. I can tell a Martin sound blindfolded at forty paces in a noisy room. It is, in my small world, the still, clear voice of the Prophet on the mountain. Nothing compares. Nothing ever will.
Touring the factory in Nazareth, PA last year, my heart and mindset was doubly reinforced. These are the American luthiers. Don’t bother showing me your custom Olson once owned by James Taylor. It’s just another expensive artifact to me, next to a Martin D-28. My Martin took me into the room with Bob Dylan for "Tangled Up In Blue." You can hear my Martin clearly on that song. How can I top that? To be honest, I play a 5-string Kani Lea uke nowadays, due to degerative arthritis in both hands. It’s a beautiful instrument that almost plays itself and has a thrilling, built-in jingle-jangle, but bury me with my Martin. I believe to this day it was the siren’s song of that Martin that got me on the Dylan session.
EN: Your book A Simple Twist of Fate was no doubt written to set the record straight since the Minnesota musicians received no public credit on the album. Were you pushed by anyone else to write that story? How did the book come to be?
KO: Fast-forward thirty years and I get a phone call from Gary Diamond, a music industry pal who’d discovered a feature article in MOJO magazine about the New York sessions for Blood On The Tracks. By this time I was a transit manager commuting to work. “Hey Kev, you could write the other half of this story and do a book with this MOJO writer, Andy Gill. Also on my mind by then was a healthy mix of mortality-awareness, Dylan’s recent output and growing legend. He was becoming a laureate of letters and a master of all he attempted. I admired that and jumped in with both feet, securing the best agent in the business, Paul Bresnick, a wonderful editor and publisher, Ben Schafer, and proceeded to a form of obsession so intense, art imitated life and I, like the character of Blood On The Tracks, lost my marriage, family, home, the works